Mass Effect 3 PS3 review
In fact, the emphasis on combat missions over the kind of exploration and downtime found in ME2 is notable – your non-combat locations are now essentially a field of two, and one of them’s the Normandy. If that sounds disappointing, it shouldn’t – there’s no less dialogue. But what all this shift in focus doesn’t signify is a ‘dumbing down’ of the series’ RPG elements. In fact, there’s more customisation than ever.
Weapons, which you’ll come across in almost Borderlands-level abundance, can all be fitted with mods via the weapon bench, which means you can really specialise your arsenal, pimping sniper rifles with increased stability and making lighter shotguns with higher capacity.
Weight’s an important factor now, since it affects cooldown times for powers, so deciding how many thundersticks to take to the party causes serious temple-rubbing. There’s an emporium full of armour types with different health and shield boosting properties, and even levelling up your powers requires some tough decisions where before it was a linear process.
So in short, ME3 has the role-playing stuff covered like an N7 Infiltrator on a grassy knoll.
The other bone of contention for eager (and nervous) ME fanatics leading up to number three’s release has been multiplayer. “What is it? Why is it here?” you scream. “How does it work? Will it ruin my story if I don’t play it? Why won’t she text me back?” There, there.
Multiplayer crashes into the PS3 game in the form of four-player co-op, and it’s a serviceable if not spectacular addition to the overall experience. The idea is that your co-op character holds the territories that Shepard gains, so rather than play with the familiar cast, you make your own chunk of alien-chewing badass and blast through survival missions with him and three friends/exasperating strangers.
Completing these missions increases your ‘galactic readiness’, which is set at 50% by default in the single-player war room. That means that if you shun the co-op component entirely, you’re bringing just half the troops Shepard secured to the battle. It’s possible to nail down all the assets with side-questing solo play, but it’s galling to feel like someone else could assemble the galactic army quicker by dipping into co-op.
Then there are the smartphone apps. EA’s releasing two iPhone games that also affect your galactic readiness rating and, regardless of the quality of those games, the fact that they impact the full-blooded Mass Effect 3’s engrossing and deeply affecting story at all seems silly and entirely commercially driven – running the risk of jeopardising the integrity of what is undoubtedly a masterpiece.
If certain outcomes were walled off unless you increased your galactic readiness through these products it’d be unforgivable – thank the stars they’re not.
Because this is a masterpiece. Arguing otherwise would be like pointing out the dust sitting on the Mona Lisa’s frame. The combat? Sure, it’s great. Really great. But a lot of games manage that. The score? Subtle, moving. The voice acting? Impeccable. Again, we’ve seen those things in great games before.
But not a lot of games – almost no games, in fact – manage to establish the kind of white-hot emotional connection between player, cast and setting that Mass Effect 3 somehow conjures. That’s the reason this story of Earth, the galaxy and Shepard’s last stand is so harrowing, and why people will be talking about it for years to come.